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From Barbie to Mortal Kombat : gender and computer games
Cassell J. (ed), Jenkins H. (ed) MIT Press, Cambridge, MA,1998.Type:Divisible Book
Date Reviewed: May 1 1999

First of all, who cares whether girls play computer and video gameswith the same enthusiasm that many boys do? Wouldn’t they be better offdoing something more educational or constructive? As a number of thisbook’s contributors point out, games may help boys todevelop better computer skills and more familiarity with computers, thushelping to enhance their educational and career achievements.Identifying computers as “boys’ toys” may discourage youngwomen from pursuing careers related to computers. So it could beimportant to understand why girls are less likely to play computer gamesand to find ways to encourage them to interact with computers in anenjoyable way.

This book presents the proceedings of an MIT symposium on genderand computer games. It is divided into three parts. The first discussesthe girls’ games movement. The second presents interviews with peopleinvolved in the girl’s games movement. The third contains papers onrethinking the girls’ games movement.

The first part of the book looks at differences between boys andgirls and what makes them interested in various types of games. Onechapter looks at the different results when boys and girls were asked todesign their own games. I found the interviews in Part 2 with peopleinvolved in developing games and the girls’ games movement to be themost interesting part of the book. Among those interviewed are theproducers of several games for girls, and employees of Sega and Mattel.Finally, Part 3 looks at changes that could be made in the developmentof video games that will interest girls.

Overall, the book is well written and interesting, with only a fewminor typographical and factual errors. A few of the illustrations dohave noticeable jaggies. The book has an index, which is not very commonin edited volumes. My only real criticism of the book is that much ofthe information presented is anecdotal or correlational. However, thereis nothing wrong with that as a starting point. People who work withchildren might find some of the chapters of interest, as will people whoare involved in producing computer games.

Reviewer:  Kent A. Campbell Review #: CR127263 (99050344)
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